Decline in forest area "impacts on Netherlands' climate change performance"

The Netherlands is losing its forests at nearly twice the rate at which new areas are being planted, according to a new study.

Image: Tijs B (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: Tijs B (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The analysis, based on topographical maps and aerial photographs, found that since 2013 an average of 3,036 hectares of forest per year was lost - only partly offset by the annual planting of 1,686 hectares of new forest.

This reverses the trend between 1990 and 2013, during which the Netherlands forest area grew from 362,046ha to 375,679ha, but is now back down to just over 364,000ha.

Some of this has been transformed into heathland, some inundated by sand, and as 80-year subsidy schemes for the planting of temporary forests of fast-growing species on farmland reach the end of the grant period, these are now being harvested and reverting to agricultural land.

"Furthermore, in a country such as the Netherlands, conversion to built-up area and infrastructure is an important deforestation factor," Wageningen Environmental Research forestry researcher Eric Arets said. "As a rule, however, these areas need to be compensated for the construction of new forest elsewhere."

He added: "Our research shows that deforestation is also a factor to take into account from the climate perspective and that deforestation is not something that occurs only in tropical countries.

"As a party to the UN climate treaty and the Kyoto Protocol, the Netherlands must report its annual greenhouse gas emissions that will monitor the progress of the agreements."


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